The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has expressed confidence the U.S. Embassy in neighboring Rwanda will ensure Bosco Ntaganda is prosecuted on war crimes charges.
“We have maintained close contact with our counterpart in the U.S. government as well as in Rwanda, because the two governments have to cooperate so that Ntaganda is sent to be judged,” said the DRC Information Minister Lambert Mende.
Mende says the surrender of Ntaganda could change the dynamics of instability in the restive parts of the North Kivu province and surrounding areas in the DRC.
“This is good news for the people and the government of this country because Bosco Ntaganda is among those criminal elements who have disturbed, and totally even destroyed, the humanitarian and security situation in the eastern part of our country,” said Mende.
The International Criminal Court has indicted Ntaganda on seven counts of war crimes and three counts of crimes against humanity. The Hague-based court accused Ntaganda of being responsible for the use of child soldiers and acts of murder, rape and sexual slavery in the eastern DRC.
“Having him brought to court will be a very big achievement for the [DRC] peace process,” Mende said. “What we need is for Ntaganda to be questioned about what he did, and what we need is for him to be punished because of the criminal act he has committed against our people.”
His comments came after Rwanda’s foreign minister, Louise Mushikiwabo, said on her Twitter account Monday that Ntaganda entered Rwanda and surrendered to the U.S. embassy in the capital, Kigali.
Ntaganda is believed to have crossed the border into Rwanda following recent violent clashes between rival groups in the rebel M23 group.
Mende says his government wants Ntaganda prosecuted in DRC for the alleged atrocities he committed there.
“Of course we would prefer him to be handed over to our justice system, but we know that international justice is in the position of [prosecuting] him. So he can be handed over to Kinshasa or he can be handed over to The Hague. There is no problem for us,” said Mende.
He says Ntaganda’s surrender could help with international efforts to protect unarmed civilians and to restore peace and stability in parts of the country often ravaged by conflicts.
“When people like Ntaganda and others will disappear in that region, we think that this will be a chance to [establish] the peace to that region. We think that there are others, but when you remove one, there is hope that this will teach a lesson to others,” said Mende.